By Way of Introduction

So, I thought I would introduce myself by giving a rather long-winded write up of my keyboard journey throughout the years. Seems rather appropriate given that this is a website dedicated to keyboards, right/ What better way to use one than to write a long biography. :wink:

I have a relatively long history with mechanical keyboards. In fact, the first “mechanical keyboard” I used was actually:

Underwood No. 5 by Duc Ly on Flickr used under a CC BY-SA 2.0 License

I mean, this really is a mechanical keyboard isn’t it? Yes, I had an Underwood No. 5 that my family had acquired when we were cleaning out a family house back in the early 1980’s. I actually used this to write several essays for my English class in Junior High School. But, that was a rather short lived as soon as I started using computers.

Which was within a year or two of messing around with the Underwood. While I was still in Jr. High, we had an area that had an Apple ][, but I only messed with it a little, and didn’t really think anything of the keyboard. When I made it to High School we had a computer lab area. Most of the systems in the lab were Dec VT-100 terminals hooked up to a hacked PDP-11/04. But, those weren’t all that interesting to me… Instead there was a computer that I found far more interesting.

And that computer was an IMSAI-8080. Not familiar with it? Well, if you have seen the movie War Games you have seen the computer. It was just a big box with a bunch of red LED’s, and red and blue toggle switches on the front of it. But, I also remember the keyboard from it for a reason that is unusual: the appearance of it. It wasn’t typical of other keyboards. This keyboard had a translucent top and front, with wood side panels attached to it, and there was a clear Cherry logo on the case.

The thing is, I’ve never seen another keyboard case that looked anything like it, and I’ve never seen a Cherry keyboard that looked like it. The closest I have seen is the G80-0662 from the keyboard layout standpoint. I think it was a custom case that someone took a G80-0662 keyboard unit and mounted it in. This fits mainly because (a) the key layout matches my (admittedly faulty) memory, and (b) it used a fifteen pin connector, which was probably converted via a custom cable to work with the IMSAI.

But, honestly, I only remember the look of that keyboard, not the typing experience at all. The fist keyboard that struck me in terms of typing experience came a few years later when my father decided that he needed a PC for his home office. And, while the Apple ][ was around, and they had introduced the Lisa, my dad didn’t want to look in that direction. Instead he wanted a business machine, and of course if you say the words business and machine together, there is only one company you can think of.

So, yep, the first PC that my parents owned, and I had regular access to was an IBM PC XT, with an original Model F keyboard. And, as anyone will say, the experience of using a Model F keyboard, indeed any of the classic IBM keyboards, will leave an impression.

Now a year or two later, seeing as I was getting ready to go to college and there was a push towards getting students to have their own personal computers, my father decided that I should have a computer when I went off to school. And of course IBM was the best computer that you could have, right? So he decided to purchase an IBM PC for me to take to college…unfortunately it was an IBM PCjr.

Now fortunately, mine didn’t have the original chicklet keyboard. But, it was still that keyboard. One of the least usable keyboards in the history of PC’s, and one of IBM’s biggest failures in the PC market place. So, after my freshman year of college, I got a job and raised half of the money for a new computer, and sold the PCjr… And I ended up getting an IBM PS/2 Model 30 for the rest of my college life. Yes, I had the most popular keyboard IBM ever produced: the Model M.

And, I have to say, I loved that keyboard. At one point during college I accidentally dropped it down a flight of cement stairs, only to find one or two small scratches on the case, an literally no other damage to it. Even after the rest of the PS/2 gave up the ghost, I kept the keyboard and used it with the computer that replaced it. I basically used that keyboard up until it was dead.

When I needed to replace that keyboard, I knew that I wanted something good. But, by this point, we had entered the period where there weren’t a lot of good keyboards around. Companies like Northgate were no longer, and there really wasn’t a lot of information out there on good keyboards. So, I don’t even recall what I ended up using.

However, that would only be true until I heard about Das Keyboard from Fab on the Linux Outlaws podcast. His ranting got me to order one of their keyboards (blue switches, of course, I’m not some linear animal after having used keyboards with great tactility and sound). I used that keyboard for seven or eight years, before it started developing issues (several of the switches started acting erratically, which eventually lead to their failure), and I wasn’t in a position to do anything about repairing it. (Long story, but I was basically unemployed as I was taking care of a terminally ill relative.)

And, now that things have changed again, and I’ve gotten back to doing a lot more computer based work, I wanted to get a good keyboard again. So, as I started looking around, I saw that mechanical keyboards have been on the rise again due to the combination of the custom mechanical keyboard groups, and gamers who wanted / needed more from their keyboard.

So, now I am sitting here typing on my 71 Key keyboard, with Box Jade’s and double shot PBT key caps. If you’d told me just a couple of years ago that I would actually hand build a keyboard (even from a kit), or actually go out and buy 30+ keyboards to evaluate, or purchase 20+ sets of key caps, and multiple sets of switches (I have at least 6 different sets of switches here) I would have scoffed. But here I am, waiting on my order of the Duck One Three TKL version and a couple of Leopold keyboards. And I’m thinking about ordering a couple more 71 key keyboards to evaluate, pre-ordering the Zealios Clickiez, and ordering in some more sets of Kaihl Box switches to try out…

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hi!

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So it begins. Welcome!

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That was a proper introduction. Welcome.

Also, I’m impressed that you wore out a Model M.

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Welcome! Nice to have more clicky switch fans here.

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I remember ogling IMSAI 8080 ads on Byte Magazine.

Welcome to KeepTalk old timer.

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Hopefully it won’t go too much further now that I’ve found a layout that I like, and it’s pretty uncommon… For me it’s going to be more about modding than sinking a lot into group buys, etc.

I’m an old school computer geek…so this kind of stuff sticks in my memory and needs to get out somehow. :wink:

More from abuse than anything else. I definitely wasn’t kind to that keyboard.

I actually tried to get used to Tactile switches a little bit ago… Got in several Akko CS, and some Kaihl tacitles…but nope, just wasn’t for me. I figured out that the issue is the tactile event is too separated from the actuation for me.

I actually tried to use the switch panel on the front to enter a program once. I think it was something fairly short I found in Dr. Dobb’s. Failed miserably after several hours, and never tried again…

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Welcome !

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Thanks!

Wow. That was a great intro. Looking forward see your future posts here!

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Thanks!

Greetings and welcome.

That’s quite a history and perspective from which to approach the current world of keyboards! I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the things you’ve tried.

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Thanks.

I have to admit, I’m a fairly skeptical person when it comes to a lot of these things. For example, if you’d asked me three years ago about using a TKL keyboard I would have been confused. But, after thinking about it, it makes sense for people that don’t need to do a lot of data entry type tasks.

Another example, I didn’t really see the need for media keys when they started appearing on keyboards. And, when I started seeing all of the 60 and 65 percent keyboards, I couldn’t help but think of all the really cruddy laptop keyboards from the past that had similar layouts.

But, when I started reading about some of the better pre-built mechanical keyboards on the market last year (most notably the Durgod K320 and Leopold FC980M), I decided to give them a try…and that lead me to trying more experimental (to me at least) keyboards.

So, that’s how I’ve ended up here…challenging myself to experiment a bit…and now getting pulled into the idea of making things a bit more custom to fit my needs and comfort.

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Dude! Welcome to the forum, and thanks for the fun Personal Keeb Saga.

Yes, the IBM buckling springs (springses?) are awesome. I laughed when I read what you said about dropping yours down a flight of stairs. Indeed, they were so well made, if you find one long-forgotten on a dusty shelf somewhere, you can usually clean it up and it looks and works like it just came off the assembly line in Lexington.

And having a Model F as an early board—that must’ve set a high standard for you. With a memory like that, I’m surprised it took you this long to become a MK maniac again. (Good thing you didn’t type on a beam spring—your keeb pursuits would’ve turned out to be a bit more expensive!)

Honestly, at the time I was just a high school student. I used whatever was attached to the computer. I was more concerned with the computer itself than I was with the peripherals. (And let’s be honest: IBM entering in the home / micro computer space was a much much bigger deal than just the keyboard.)

Well, given that I kept using Model M’s for as long as I could, then went to a DasKeyboard means that I’ve used mech keyboards far more than I haven’t… And the only reason I didn’t have one for a few years was because I couldn’t afford one - literally. (Especially not trusting most of the cheap gamer keyboards.)

Which is what makes it so fun, right, seeing it come to be considered a classic?

I loved typing on my early computers, and vastly preferred them to the the flood of cheap-o dome and membrane boards that soon arrived. But now that peripheral-makers could make boards so much quieter and more cheaply, I figured no one would be interested in the clickety-clackety ones anymore. (No doubt some people felt this way when the Model M, as good as it is, replaced the F.) Even when I started building my own PCs, I didn’t realize MKs (e.g. Cherrys) were an option.

To your credit, you stayed on top of the whole thing, even when you couldn’t actually participate. It never occurred to me that MKs (which is what they were, it turned out, he said, non-technically) would one day be available again, not to mention on the vast scale at which they’ve returned. I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s a fabulous thing.

So, man, enjoy those Box Jades (sweet!). And welcome back to Typing Goodness.

Thanks. And, we’ll see if the Box Jades get up ended by something else…Possibly the Clickiez. :wink:

FWIW - I never thought that mechanical keyboards were going to go completely away. I figured they were going to be a niche market held by Das Keyboard, Unicomp and Keymacs… What I didn’t see coming was the gamers wanting mechanical keyboards, which in turn flipped the whole market on it’s ear and brought the Chinese into it in droves.

Honestly, if you’d asked me in the early 2000’s what the Mechanical Keyboard market was in terms of value, I would have thought it was around $100-$200K. Turns out, with a little research, I’ve found out that it’s currently more like $1.1B, and projected to grow to $1.3B in the next 4-6 years. That would have been totally unbelievable to me.

Time to get a model m mini from unicomp now :smirk: